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Late Filing Penalties for Wage and Tax Statements and Information Returns

Late Filing W-2s, W-3s, 1099-MISC, 1096 Forms

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Late Filing Penalties for Wage and Tax Statements, and Information Returns

The IRS imposes penalties for failure to furnish W-2 statements to employees and for failure to file W-3 statements, along with copies of employee W-2's. Penalties may also be imposed for statements that are incomplete or inaccurate. If you can show "reasonable cause" for your failure, you may avoid the penalties, but don't count on the IRS accepting your "reasonable cause" excuse. If your failure is willful or it can be proved that you intentionally disregarded the law, the penalties are higher. Here are the details:

Furnishing Statements to Employees
You must furnish W-2 statements to employees by the end of January each year (February 2 for 2009). These W-2 statements must be complete and accurate. If you fail to furnish the statements in a timely manner, or if your errors or omissions are "consequential," the IRS may impose a penalty on you. "Consequential," as defined by the IRS, means relating to a dollar amount, a significant item in the payee's address, or a missing or incorrect Taxpayer ID Number (TIN).

The penalty for a failure to furnish a W-2 is $50 per statement, no matter when the correct statement is furnished.

Filing with the Social Security Administration (SSA)
You may be liable for penalties if you fail to file Form W-3 with the SSA (along with W-2s for all employees) by the end of February for the preceding year (March 2 in 2009, for 2008). In addition, you may be penalized if the forms are incorrect, with errors or omissions. You can avoid penalties if you:

  • File in a timely manner, by the due date
  • Include all required information on the form
  • Make sure the information is correct
  • Make sure you file on the correct form (not a photocopied form for the W-3)
  • File electronically, if you are required to do so (that is, if you have 250 or more W-2 forms to submit
Carefully check the forms for completeness and accuracy. In particular, make sure you have correct TINs for employees, correctly spelled surnames, and that any money amounts are correct.

Other Filing Information
The amount of penalty is based on when you file. The lowest amount is $15 for returns correctly filed within 30 days of the due date.

Using a payroll service provider does not relieve you of the responsibility to ensure that the W-2 forms are filed correctly and on time. If your failure to file is intentional, the penalty is at least $100 per form, with no maximum.

Small Businesses
Penalties are smaller for "small businesses" (those with $5 million or less in average annual gross receipts for the three most recent tax years).

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